Staging My House Made Me Realize I Didn’t Want to Sell It After All

published Nov 4, 2020
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When we bought our house in 2017, we knew it wasn’t our forever home. It has enough square footage for our family of four, plus an amazing fenced-in backyard, all in a neighborhood we love. But the layout didn’t check all the boxes. We knew three bedrooms and one bathroom would only feel doable for so long. That time came—or so we thought—when the pandemic hit.

During stay-at-home orders, the house felt a lot smaller. My husband and I both needed space to work from home, and my kids needed their own space for distance learning. We could probably make do with posting up at the dining room table for a bit, but selling the house felt like a smart move because the market was hot. Interest rates dipped lower than we’d ever seen them, and inventory for buyers was low. We figured now was the perfect time to get the most out of our sale and upgrade to a more functional space (ideally, four bedrooms and two baths). 

In early August, we decided we’d list the house in mid-September. Right away, we started getting rid of stuff we didn’t need, from old baby clothes and toys to furniture and kitchen gadgets that cluttered our storage areas. On weekends, we worked on organizing the kitchen cabinets and drawers, a job we’d been putting off since, well, 2017. 

Then we linked up with our realtor, who helped us form a long to-do list of house projects we’d need to tackle before she’d arrange photos of our interior. Paint all the walls. Deep-clean carpets. Hire cleaners and weed the front garden. Motivated to stick with our list date, we knocked it all out in a week or two. And all of it made our house start to feel new again.

Little did we know the impact actually staging the house would have. A few days before we were scheduled for house photos, a professional stager walked through every room in our house and told us how to make the space more appealing for potential buyers. Most of her ideas were simple, but they made a huge, noticeable difference.

Simple fixes like taking unused appliances off the kitchen counter and moving a bookshelf away from an already-crowded wall instantly made the house feel more spacious. And getting rid of furniture we didn’t love, like a beat-up navy wingback chair we got at a garage sale a few years back, created a more cohesive aesthetic.

Filling in design gaps also helped. Per the stager’s idea, I went to Target and bought some simple decor—matching couch pillows, a new bedspread, some flowers for the dining room table—that would make rooms feel more put together. The $200 I spent would be worth it, I thought, once we made that money back on our house. 

But the changes in our habits as we prepared for showings made an even bigger difference. As we moved down the to-do list, we became more careful about messes and clutter. We put dishes away after we washed them. We didn’t let piles of mail accumulate on the counter. We made the bed every morning. Turns out, living like someone else would soon see the house, we joked, almost made us want to stay there. Almost.

Seeing the space through someone else’s eyes was the push we needed to prioritize little things we’d been putting off for three years. For the first time, we’d thought about what it meant to make our house a home: to create a cohesive, cozy look that reflected our design sensibilities. But the process also made our limited space more functional. Moving furniture in our owner’s suite opened up room for work, and storing toys in the kids’ closet created space for a distance learning desk. Suddenly, we had room for everything we needed to do at home. 

When the time came to list the house, I tossed and turned all night. As nice as it would be to make money from selling, something didn’t feel right about it. I almost felt jealous of the people who would snag our house, because I finally saw the potential of what it could be. 

Early the next day, we called our realtor and broke the news. We decided we’d wanted to stay (for now). The stress of moving with two young kids and switching school districts began to outweigh the benefits of packing up our lives and moving, especially now that we enjoyed the space.

Finally, I could exhale. The realtor totally understood our plight and told us to reach out next spring, anticipating it would still be a seller’s market in March. In the meantime, she suggested, we could work on house projects that would make our house even more appealing to buyers. But I have a hunch that once we add that second bathroom, we won’t ever want to leave.